I lost 200 Euros (275 USD) in my first 24 hours in France. The money did not just fall out of my pocket, nor did I leave my wallet out in the open somewhere. I handed it over willing. You could even say I gambled it away.

The thing is, I did not know what I was doing. I was wandering the streets around the city and ran across one of the "find the card"-type game tables. Here they use circle disks instead of cards but the concept was the same as it is played in other major cities.

Basically, there are three objects on a table and passer-bys must keep their eye on a specific one as a dealer moves them around the table. As he deals, people can bet that they will find the agreed upon object, potentially doubling their money.

I stood around one of these tables, watching others at first and found myself getting the objects' location right every time. A man next to me (probably in cahoots with the dealer) took notice of my accuracy and started egging me on.

I pointed to one of the disks, and the dealer revealed it was the right one.

"You're good, do you see where it's going now?" he said. "Give the dealer your money" he said, "Then he'll double it."

Thinking I won the game, I handed over 50 Euros. Then other people in the crowd said to add more and each time I grabbed another 50 they said I could go as far as I wanted.

I hesitated but was egged on until the 200 Euros I had in my wallet was in the hand of the dealer. Then he pointed back to the disks and said "pick one."

I haphazardly chose another, and that is where I went wrong. He was not doubling my money for the round I just guessed correctly. He played a round while I was pulling the money from my wallet and wanted me to guess where the disk had gone.

Needless to say, I was wrong and in just those few minutes, I lost the equivalent of 275 USD.

As it hit me I started to tear up. I did not cry just yet but I wanted to get away before the tears really came. The man who had been egging me on before followed behind me for a while, saying he could get me back the money if I had more to bet with.

I opened my wallet to show only the 5 Euro bill I had remaining, tears welling in my eyes. The man looked sympathetic. I think he followed just to swindle me again but when he looked at me I believe he felt the impact of what he just helped do.

"I'll help you get the money back" he said to me; but I could not keep standing there. The tears were coming out and I did not want him or anyone else to see me crying. I walked down the closest street I could find, cried for a minute, and went back to my hostel.

I have to admit, I was and still am quite devastated by this. That was literally all the money I planned to spend for these three weeks.

I am all the more wiser because of it (I must trust my instincts), and I am grateful it was just money. Yes, it was a big chunk of change for me but it could have been so much worse. With all things considered, I would rather it be something quite easy to replace--even if it will take a while before I will earn that sum back.

I share this story only because I realize how naïve I was. I grew up a lot in Togo but all the things I learned about life, people, and even trickery there do not equate to the Western world. This was my slap in the face--I officially jumped into the water and am ready to swim.
I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Since embarking on my post-Peace Corps adventure, each day of my first week has been marked with unforgettable experiences:

Day 1- Got lost in Madrid
Day 2- Attended a traditional Moroccan wedding
Day 3- Got lost in Marrakech
Day 4- Rode a camel in the desert
Day 5-Visited a town from movie scenes
Day 6- Went to Morocco's largest waterfall
Day 7- Spoke French in France

I did it all quite frugally but felt like a VIP. After Togo, small luxuries like hot showers feel more valuable than ever before.

Aside from indulging in these simple pleasures, in Spain I wandered around Madrid, reacquainting myself with the Western world until I got lost. 

No more street food, no clapping before opening a doors, and no more statements of 'bon digestion' after meals.

If you put my lousy sense of direction aside, the labyrinthine streets in the Medina (old city) are hard to keep anyone on track. 

Fortunately, I constantly stumbled upon delicious goodies: dates, almonds, dried apricots, and other fresh foods to keep me fueled along the way. For being on the same continent, Morocco seems oceans away from the life I knew in Togo.

In Morocco I got to experience a completely different part of Africa -- one mixed with Mediterranean delights, European customs, and a familiar Togolese-type hospitality. 

I jumped right in and spent hours discovering new things until I got lost there too. I enjoyed every minute of it but getting lost in Marrakech was nothing like getting lost in Madrid.

I tried to capture my experiences with photos, which you can check out here

Still, some of the best moments remain only in my memory---the golden hues of Madrid's Park del Retiro at sunset, the dense star-filled desert sky, and stripping down with Moroccan women in a traditional bath house.

I just hope to have as many great experiences in the next portion of my trip. The next, and longest stop is three weeks in France. Here's to practicing French!

À la prochaine